tepid participation

I mostly write about minor league basball and I take very little of it seriously. Booorring!

Month: April, 2012

My (Reluctant) Recognition of Sporting Excellence

Damn you, Derek Jeter.  I watched and watched and waited for you to fail. Publicly, personally, and most certainly professionally.  I waited you out during my twenties.  A man under the unnerving pressure of being the captain of arguably the most recognized sports franchise in the world plying his trade in the capital of the world, should fall. Mightily.  Damn you, Jeter ’cause I’m older now and I have significant responsibilities of my own. I know what pressure feels like, though clearly not on the same level.  My edge has been shaved with regards to you and your life and to a certain extent your professional achievements.  I now reluctantly recognize that you exist in a subtext to my own maturation. You also exist and revel in a spotlight the likes of which would cause most men to wilt nearly instantaneously.  I’ve changed, you’ve stayed the same.  So it is without any sense of grandiose movement that I offer you a calm tip of my hat for your achievements.  Way to go, asshole.

Jeter’s not alone.  I’m easing my way into a previously impossible enjoyment of watching Kobe Bryant in his twilight still hunting down opponents’ weaknesses until the 4th quarter when he exploits all that he’s discovered.  You’d think it would drive me insane to credit him given his winter move, but I still can’t believe Albert Pujols’ swing plane and his trigger mechanisms and his twitch-twitch-explode from the right side of the plate.  I want his team to lose, but I kind of want him to play forever.  David Ortiz plays for a team I’ve never had much love for, but at 36, the big fella lost 25 pounds during the off season and currently has 28 f-ing hits in 16 games and an OPS of 1.200. Hat tip for you, big dude. Sprinting through the finish line.

Much has been written about “fandom” around these parts this week.  I’m nearly positive anyone reading this is aware of the imbroglio over April scoreboard watching and the unceremonious dropping of a french adjective.  I saw all the tweets, live, and frankly didn’t think much of them.  I know most of the folks involved, at least a little bit, and I like them all.  I can’t really explain my lack of a response other than to say that I’ve just (completely inadvertently, mind you), begun to drift aimlessly toward an appreciation for excellence on the field while experiencing a nearly tangible dissipation of my passion for the name on the front of the jersey.  I found a couple of great articles, one by Joey Matschulat of BBTIA, http://www.bbtia.com/the-clubhouse/2012/4/20/a-thought-on-the-great-twitter-war-of-2012.html and the other, the thoughful, measured response from Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus and Texas Farm Review, articulating how as they’ve delved further into the game and its machinations, they too have felt their “fandom” lessening. The experience for me, while similar, has had some inversely proproportional side effects. As I’ve drifted from disliking player X or Team Y, my appreciation for those who excel has grown.

I’m enjoying the game(s) more than ever now.  I can’t really articulate it any better than to say that my appreciation for what I’m seeing is palpable. As most of you know, I’m an entrepreneur and a business owner.  I’m in a segment that faces intense, daily scrutiny and criticism.  I’ve got my name on my business which is why my name isn’t on my blog. (contractual stuff with the partners et. all).  I often refer to my state of mind as that of a reluctant optimist.  It’s contrary to my punk nature to look on the bright side, but you have to learn to take it a little bit when reading the unsolicited opinions of all of your hard work on Yelp! (side note: fuckin’ Yelp)

Maybe that’s what it is, there’s so much other crap to deal with that baseball, and sports in general, have become what they should be for me, a healthy distraction. Sometimes when I’m making small talk about baseball with parents of little leaguers or folks wearing Rangers gear, they’re surprised by the games I suggest they attend.  I always tell ’em to go see the Mariners, or the Yankees, or the Angels in the AL and the Phillies or the Braves in the NL.  I don’t make this suggestion because of the teams or the rivalries or any kind of geographical allegiance.  I make the suggestion because of a few of the players they’re likely to see. There have been roughly 19,000 players in MLB history and there are 242 in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  You can argue for years about some of the merits of the members, but the bottom line on all of them is that they were good.  Really good.  Go out to the ballpark to see Ichiro, Jeter, Rivera, Pujols, Halladay, or Jones, and the chances are strong you’re seeing an athlete who is so good at his sport that someday his name is going to join those 242 others.

I’m not intimating that I don’t root for teams anymore, I do. Its just that somehow I have an easier time these days accepting the excellence of the opponent.  Blame it on maturation, blame it on my continuing knowledge of the games, blame it on my job, or mortgage, or whatever.  But I’m happy it’s happening.  So tonight if the Bombers have a two-run lead and the 9th comes around, me and you may be rooting for a rally, but I’ll also be oddly content if the game ends with my last personal visual of the last #42 inducing a sawed off, soft grounder to first.  Nice pitch, asshole.

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What I’ve Learned this Week

Greetings from, well, from my desk perched high up in my treehouse in a far off, quasi-remote, near-by, quaint, vibrant, small-town of several million inhabitants.  Watched a lot of ball this week, but followed WAY more on the web.  Is everybody else doing it this way?  I’m probably watching/following baseball on the web versus the television at about a 7-to-1 clip these days.  Could be my fascination with the minor leagues, could just be that when I turn on ESPN, I’m bound to be subjected to some kind of “Peyton Manning takes a physical” story that’s going to rob me of 3.5 minutes I could have used to check on Taijuan Walker’s progress.  Anyway, here’s this week’s observations:

-The Tigers may win the Central by 15 games.  They can really hit.  I’ve already stated that Verlander is must-watch TV and in case you missed it, his last 4 fastballs the other night were all 100MPH.  He threw 131 pitches in the that game and since he is fueled by an odd combination of nastiness and Taco Bell, he will probably dominate all season long.  They’re really gonna try to get old man Illitch a World Series ring before he goes from Little Caesars down here to the Big Caesars up there.

-The Red Sox bullpen sucks.  I told you that last week and I didn’t think it could get worse.  Despite the series against the Rays, where the offense carried the load, the pen just isn’t very good.  Bard is nasty, but that situation is a good example of what CAN happen when you move 1 dominant bullpen arm out of the bullpen.

-The Angels bullpen is a bit of a mess as well.  I, frankly, haven’t researched many of their numbers because I’ve been more fascinated with the Scioscia psychology that allows Hunter and Wells to bat 5-6 in nearly every game they’ve played this year.  Meanwhile, Mike Trout has at least one hit in EVERY single game he’s played this year at AAA Salt Lake.  I saw him last year in person and Rangers fans should be thankful for everyday he’s not earning playing experience in the big league line-up.  He’s going (eventually, right?) to be VERY good.

-Dylan Bundy is crazy good.  Scouting reports from his games and twitter tidbits from those who can spot more than I, are seeing a lively, mid-90’s fastball working both sides of the plate.  He’s pitched 9 innings now as a professional and has yet to give up a hit.  But I’m moving on, ’cause I’m fascinated with a developing story.  Last year, Bundy was the 4th pick overall and his friend and sometimes baseball rival since the age of 8, Archie Bradley was taken with the 7th pick.  Bradley’s Broken Arrow High defeated Bundy’s Owasso High in the Oklahoma 6A championship game last year on the strength of Bradley’s 14Ks and two hits allowed.  These two Tulsa area natives have a chance to be really, really good pitchers.  There is a profoundly long way to go (likely to be at least a couple more years for both to reach the Show), but this will be fun to watch.  I’ll keep you posted.

-Both of these wunderkinds are from Oklahoma and they have a long, long way to go to be the best current player in baseball from Oklahoma, ’cause that’s where Matt Kemp is from.  He’s been the best current player in baseball from ANYWHERE since opening day 2011.

-sometimes I hear scouts and pundits say “it’s really all about the results”.  Mechanics are important at all levels and they often lead to the results, however sometimes the mechanics are unconventional but the results are steady and on occasion spectacular.  And that’s why baseball has Hunter Pence.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the results.

-Jose Valverde is one of those guys non-baseball fans see on television, point to and say “THAT guy is a professional athlete?”.  It certainly doesn’t help that he always pitches from the stretch and his profile resembles a wood-burning stove.

-I’m betting the Yankees eventually catch the Orioles.  Call it a hunch.

-Special thanks to Chris Adams (@chrisadams03) for inviting me out to see the Frisco RoughRiders on Sunday.  It was an experience that deserves it’s own post so look for that later.

-As a music dork, I often say that the reason KISS wears make-up is to distract you from the fact that their songs suck.  To that end, I’d like to see the “Dbacks” put “Arizona” on their home uniforms and put regular seats where that stupid pool is.  It’s like a grown man wearing Crocs or Boise State’s blue turf.  We’re not going to take you seriously, until you take yourself a little more seriously.

Alrighty, folks, that’s it for this week.  I’m having a blast writing this little blog and interacting with  you on the Twitter monster.

-Tepid

@tepidp on twitter

tepidparticipation@gmail.com

What I’ve learned in Week 1

-perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that I really fricking like baseball and all(most) seems right with the world when I’m watching it, talking about it, reading about it, or researching it.  Ahhhhh.

-small sample sizes RULE for making significant, knee-jerk observations!

-We learned that Yoenis Cespedes has legitimate, big-boy power.  He probably shouldn’t have watched the first few seconds of his monster shot last week, but if you’d just launched a ball 1/3 of the way to Palo Alto, you’d have scoped a peek as well. Anxious to see pitchers make adjustments to him.

-We learned that the Red Sox have closer issues until the return of Andrew Bailey.  Those were some big leads they blew and it can’t be ignored. Also, Josh Bard’s slider (along with Alexi Ogando’s) is awesome. Having said that, two-pitch starting pitchers don’t have a long history of success.  I’m ready to see how this works out for him.

-The Orioles helmets look cool with the new/old bird

-Staying on the sartorial slide, how great did the Astros look in their Colt 45’s?

-Speaking of the ‘stros, take a look at their lineup. If you remove a couple of obvious names, you could tell me it was the roster for a NYC summer league basketball team and I would scan the list and shrug in agreement.

-The Orioles’ Dylan Bundy has a chance to be special.  Everybody was talking about how polished he was coming out of high school last year.  I’d like to see the number of times ANY kid graduating from Owasso High School near Tulsa was described as “polished”. Really excited to see him pitch sometime soon.

-Ozzie Guillen- man, Ozzie, man.

-We learned that the Mariners have a frightening trifecta of young arms coming through their system, my favorite of which is Taijuan Walker.  Seen lots of tape of him and he is crazy fun to watch.  He sits about 95 and has a huge, hammer curve.  Also, a quick Google search reveals a signed photo of him on eBay for $14.99.  You should buy it.

-Taijuan Walker is amazing and has potential to be amazing-er, but if you want to see what it looks like if EVERYTHING  goes perfectly in his development, you can just watch Justin Verlander every five days.  Holy shit.  Raise your hand if you have 3 fucking near 80 grade pitches. I know this is an obvious observation, but it still bears repeating.

-Mike Trout is not better than those other guys in the Angels outfield? umm, ok.

-Are the Twins going to lose 100 games. Prolly.

-the good news for Twins fans is that in 3 short years, Miguel Sano will be playing first base for them and with his 80 grade power he’ll be able to hit at least, what, 15 home runs in your park? (but he’ll hit a bazillion homers in other people’s parks)

-apparently the NL Cy Young is going to come down to a vote between Chad Billingsly, Barry Zito, and Jeff Samardzija (the Cubs dude/ND receiver with the sneaky “z”).

-We learned that Yu Darvish is a pretty competitive SOB with great stuff. I always wondered what it would look like to see a pitcher throw with 128,000,000 people on his back.

-Got to believe that the shoulder is the next great conquest for orthopedic sports medicine.  ‘Cause every NBA player has a new ACL, and Tommy John surgery has become the orthodontist visit for MLB pitchers.

-on a sad note, Google “Stephen Gant”, then go tell someone you love ’em.  It’s still just a game.  I’ve been gutted reading about this kid this week.

Well that’s pretty much our first run through the rotation.  Been lovin’ chatting some of you up on Twitter.  Feel free to send me emails or whatever.  Enjoy the games and life.

-Tepid

I’m bound for Frisco, Texas this weekend!

so it appears as though I’ll be headed out to see the Frisco RoughRiders this weekend.  Rest assured I’ll be writing about my experiences seeing the only professional sports team (I know of) that shares their name with a gay bar.  They’re the Double-A affiliate of the Rangers and I will also be tweeting some of the more notable moments/sights of the extravaganza known as minor league baseball.  I’m also planning on challenging 6’9″ Angels prospect John Hellweg to a dunk contest.  Or something.

 

ALSO, LOOK FOR A RECAP OF THE FIRST WEEK OF THE SEASON SOMETIME WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.  I’M USING THE CAPS LOCK! HA!

-Tepid

Last year, abou…

Last year, about 2/3 of the way through a remarkable season for the Texas Rangers, I went out to the park for one of my favorite nights of the year.  Jamey Newberg, the Godfather of fan-driven baseball blogs, was throwing his annual “Newberg Report Night”.  I’ve known Jamey for a few years now and I really look forward to the opportunity to grab a beer and catch up with him and his assorted crew.  Last year, I ended up sitting, for a bit, with a scout dressed up as a writer.  Jason Parks and I bonded over mutual acquaintances, art, and taste in music, but the interesting part for me was to watch him and his esteemed colleague, Kevin Goldstein, watch baseball.  Perched in a luxury suite on the third base side, about even with the left fielder,  I’ll never forget Parks commenting on how starting pitcher Tommy Hunter’s “ball was really boring in on the hitters”.   We’re like, I don’t know, a hundred fucking yards away from the mound and this hawkeyed freak is noticing the movement of a 93 mph pitch?  Awesome.  The point, other than to make me look like a name-dropping ass in my first post, is that the game is something different to so many people.

We’re on the doorstep of another long season.  There’s a million cliches about “trial and tribulations”, “ups and downs”, etc.  The season is long.  Like, directors-cut long.  But from time to time it is magical and throughout the entire ride, it is something different to so many different people.  I guess that’s what makes it an inherent thread in the fabric of our country’s culture.  One fan’s relentless obsession with Josh Hamilton’s personal story is counterbalanced by another fan’s obsession with Trevor Bauer’s training regimen.  There are as many swaths of fine folks in our fair land that are befuddled by Felix Hernandez’s win column not indicating his quality as there are who argue that  Miami’s new home run sculpture thingy is awesome/hideous. I’ve been to a Giants game with a 5 year-old boy who was visibly disappointed upon finding out that the players weren’t actually “giant” and equally confused when I tried to explain that the other team was named after a very inanimate mountain range.

I’m fortunate to have a job where I basically shoot the shit with loads of different people from different walks of life.  One thing that has always struck me when baseball becomes the topic of conversation is what people are most eager to discuss.  Sometimes it’s current big leaguers, sometimes its their favorite retired player, sometimes it’s the prospects their chosen club has coming through the pipeline.  This time of year the mood is optimistic and for the most part, it is relentlessly positive.  Baseball looks different to different people, but it’s the game as a whole and the transfixing nature it imposes on those who follow it either casually or passionately, that I respect.

A new season begins this week.

as for me, I’m becoming more and more obsessed with prospects and minor leagues and the various, miscellaneous cast of characters that lie therein.  I anticipate writing about them often, though I’m not studied enough to write things about the tilt on a slider or the grade for a prospect’s speed, and I damn sure can’t assess the movable target that is “hit” tool.  I’m more interested in the stories of baseballAlso, I’m about the farthest thing from a professional writer, as you can undoubtedly tell.  I welcome feedback about the stories or the emotions, but if you’re just going to tell me not to quit my day job, don’t worry Mr. Jerkface, I’m not.

on twitter @tepidp